If you need a lawyer, you need the best lawyer, not the best you can afford, but the best lawyer. Coming in second in litigation is like coming in second in a gunfight. Don’t enter into litigation unless you are going in to win. Anything less and you will waste your time and money. Then, when you are winning, settle. Don’t wait for a decision from a judge or jury.
Some years ago I encountered a business that was trapped between a long-standing, one-sided legal agreement and a business that wanted to use that agreement against them. The new owner of the business was desperate to get the situation resolved or lose his investment and his livelihood. The rest of the details of the scenario are not important, but the lesson learned is meaningful.
I assisted the business in selecting one of the top legal firms in the state. They had experts whose reputation was unexcelled in the area we needed to address. Negotiations were fruitless, so litigation was begun. The other party hired the cheapest lawyer they could. The first appearance in court was telling. Our attorney presented a professional case that clearly impressed the judge. Their attorney acted like an amateur and did not address our claims. The judge chastised their attorney and rescheduled a date for them to be prepared. It was embarrassing to watch. Our legal team was confident of a win, but it was just a matter of convincing the other lawyer they had no chance. When they figured it out, we negotiated a settlement. We got what we wanted and they were off the hook for what was potentially a huge cash settlement.
Later, I met with one of the attorneys for lunch, his treat. He told me that settling litigation was always preferred to going for a decision, either with a judge or jury. His logic was clear. You never know what a judge or jury will decide. If you are winning, give the loser a way out that will give you what you want and not leave you in a bad situation. If you are losing, do what it takes to get it settled before the consequences are too big to deal with. He said that following our lunch, he had an appointment with a judge, a judge that said he had spent his day listening to stupid attorneys, that is attorneys who had not counseled their clients to negotiate a settlement.
Litigation is costly. Get your money’s worth.